People have been making items from clay for almost as long as they’ve been on earth. A mixture of soil, minerals, and water, clay is malleable when damp, but when it is fired, water is driven out and the clay becomes hard and waterproof. Clay vessels (ceramics) may be washed and reused; they are great for serving foods and holding liquids. The clay’s soil and mineral content determines its color and firing temperature. High-fire clays are usually better for throwing on the wheel. Low-fire clays are usually easy to work and have minimal shrinking; they are ideal for hand building, slab structures, and sculptures but also can be thrown. Browse our roundup of the best low-fire clays below.
1. Rocky Mountain Pottery Clay
This white earthenware clay is a good, all-around pick; it works well for hand building, sculpting, and throwing on the wheel. Beginning students and advance potters appreciate its plasticity. It holds water well, which means artists can work with forms over long stretches of time. Specifically formulated to use with commercial glazes, it is great for schools and art centers.
2. Amaco Earthenware Modeling Clay
Need a beautiful, pliable clay suitable for artists at all levels? Amaco’s earthenware modeling clay is creamy and workable—not grainy or gritty—and great for hand building, throwing on the wheel, and mold making. It dries to a light gray; low-fire it for a pure white form, or add glaze and fire slightly higher for brilliant, transparent color on finished pieces. Scraps are easy to reclaim, so not a bit of clay goes to waste.
3. Laguna Pottery Clay
Educators and master potters appreciate the plasticity and performance of this dense clay. Smooth with a porcelain texture, it holds its form well during hand building and throwing on the wheel. It doesn’t need a lot of wedging to work out bubbles or to get it to the right consistency; it’s ready to go. Fewer bubbles mean forms are less likely to explode in the kiln, which means fewer frustrated students. Light gray when it dries, it fires to a warm, creamy white and can be finished with glazes or acrylic paint.
4. Aurora Pottery Whiteware Clay
Need a low-fire white clay that is nontoxic and safe for kids? Aurora Pottery’s whiteware clay is water-based and versatile, perfect for artists of all ages. It can be used for sculpting, pinching, modeling, slab building, and throwing on the wheel. Once fired, the forms are white. Add glazes for sparkle and shine, or finish with acrylic paints.
5. Activa Blackjack Low Fire Clay
Activa’s Blackjaw low-fire clay is a premium, natural clay mined from East Texas earth. It is not dried or processed but retains its silky-smooth composition, ideal for modeling, coiling, pinching, and throwing on a potter’s wheel. Ceramic forms may be air dried or low-fired. The clay dries white and, once fired, is a pristine white; it may be glazed or painted with acrylics. Safe and nontoxic, this professional clay is great for beginners, too.